Writer, filmmaker, visual artist, and celebrated leader of the French avant-garde, Jean Cocteau (18891963) once announced, "One must know how to go too far." The astounding scope of his work stands as a testament to that revolutionary spirit. Throughout his life he boldly experimented in almost every medium and achieved enduring success in them all: novels like Les Enfants Terribles; films such as The Blood of a Poet, Beauty and the Beast, and Orphee; as well as plays, ballets, drawings, poems, and even an opera of Oedipus Rex (written with Stravinsky). Cocteau regarded The Difficulty of Being as the key to his oeuvre and as a daring act of self-revelation. With terse skill he explores the innermost frontiers of his personality, from childhood memories to his creative wrestlings, from incisive portraits of Proust, Gide, Nijinsky, Picasso, and Stravinsky to reflections on death, friendship, dreams, youth, pain, beauty, haunted houses, and of course, on being without being. But no matter what he is writing about, he goes straight to the mark, illuminating a thought, subject, or personal reminiscence with precision and vitality. A magazine once asked Cocteau, If his house were burning and he could take only one thing, what would it be? "I'd take the fire," he answered. In The Difficulty of Being Cocteau does just that.